Exercise is Medicine-Especially for Parkinson’s Disease

What do you think of when you hear the term “Parkinson’s Disease”? Do you think of hand tremors? Do you picture an elderly person, perhaps a grandfather? Although hand tremors are a common symptom of Parkinson’s, and the disease is more likely to affect people 60 and older, there is much more to PD than you may realize.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. Symptoms generally develop slowly over years. The progression of symptoms is different from one person to another. People with PD may experience tremors, mainly at rest. Slowness of movements (bradykinesia). limb rigidity, gait and balance problems are also symptoms of PD. Non-motor symptoms can include apathy, depression, constipation, sleep behavior disorders, loss of sense of smell, and cognitive impairment.

According to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, while the average age at onset is 60, people have been diagnosed as young as 18. There is no objective test, or biomarker, for Parkinson’s disease, so the rate of misdiagnosis can be relatively high. Estimates of the number of people living with the disease therefore vary, but research indicates that at least one million people in the United States, and more than five million worldwide, have Parkinson’s disease. That is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease (or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).

Although there is no cure for the disease and the exact cause is unknown, we do know both environmental and genetic factors play a role. Research is ongoing to learn more about the disease, treatments, and someday a cure. Current medications help to manage symptoms. Surgery, known as Deep Brain Stimulation, can help to reduce tremors. Another way to manage symptoms is through exercise. Although more research is needed on how exercise reduces symptoms, or if it actually slows the progression of the disease, we do know that exercise is good for everyone for a variety of reasons.

Exercise can improve daily function such as getting out of bed, standing up from a chair, or dressing oneself. Exercise also improves balance. As a matter of fact, it is the only thing that can improve balance. Medications do not help, and often can increase balance problems. Exercise improves strength which we need for daily activities such as carrying groceries or picking up children or grandchildren. Exercise improves endurance. Exercise improves flexibility. It is difficult to bend down to tie your shoes or reach around for the seat belt in your car without it. We also know that regular exercise helps to lower blood pressure, reduce blood glucose levels in those with diabetes, improve mood to reduce depression and anxiety, and improve sleep.

These improvements will not just help those with Parkinson’s, but almost all of us. So why wouldn’t we prescribe exercise? Prescription medications are necessary, but exercise is medicine as well…without side effects. This time of year, exercise becomes a priority for many Americans as they make New Year’s Resolutions. For people with PD, exercise isn’t just a resolution. It is a necessity. I once heard a Neurologist say, “If I had PD and had to leave my career, my job would be to exercise every day.” That is how important exercise is to those with Parkinson’s Disease, and why we say Exercise IS Medicine.



Do What You Love

At the end of each year, I take time to reflect on what I did this year and how my business did. I will admit, 2017 was full of distractions and derailments. I became very passionate about injustices that were all around me. I always have been passionate, but this was the year when I started to take action. As important as that was to me, it did distract me from business matters and sometimes even from family matters. I had to take a step back and refocus on my business and my well-being.

Recently, I started to lament the fact that I wasn’t making as much money as I needed to be making. I love helping people. I love helping people live healthier, more functional lives. I’m definitely not looking at putting all of my “extra money” in off shore accounts! I’m more concerned about my account around the corner at the local bank. I’m a problem solver, so when I don’t like the way something is going I feel like I need to fix it. There lies the problem. In fixing the fact that I’m not making the money I need to be making, my brain automatically starts going into what I call “failure mode”. This is the mode that many of us who were not encouraged or told we would succeed in life reset to. I’m not parent blaming, but it takes work to overcome negative messages we were given growing up. The “failure mode” in my brain started to send message of, “you’re not successful”, “quit what you’re doing and find a ‘real’ job”, etc, etc.

I can proudly say that I don’t stay in that failure mode for very long. I’ve practiced for many years shutting that system off. Instead, I started thinking of more ways that I could help the people I’m helping now and others like them who I am not currently reaching. You see, I’m not in this career to get rich. I’m here to help others. I love the quote by Mark Twain,

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I love and enjoy what I do. Some days it seems like hard work, but other days it doesn’t seem like work at all. I’m a caregiver all around…for my clients, for my elderly mom, for my rescue dogs, even sometimes for my husband! I’m not rolling in money, I can’t take lavish vacations, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

As the holidays approach, I’ve been wishing my clients and class participants Happy Holidays. I may not see some of them for a week or two during break. Some are snow birds and I won’t see them until April. To hear them thank me for helping them this year and making a difference in their lives just confirms the Mark Twain quote, and what I am doing. All of the money and success in the world means nothing. Knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life….that is priceless.

File Under: “You need to lift weights that are heavier than your purse.”

If you’re like many women, your purse weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of six pounds—if not more. That overstuffed tote isn’t just getting in your way: It could actually be a danger to your health, says Dr. Sabrina Strickland, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “When you carry a…

via Your Purse Is Too Heavy. Here’s Why You Should Care — Health – TIME

That Tug

Have you ever had an experience which causes you to reflect on life? I had one this week.  I was delivering fliers about our Parkinson’s group to a local medical office. Someone had suggested that I also drop some off at ‘His Hands’, a local free medical clinic. I had never been there, so I looked up the website on my phone and hit GPS directions.

The clinic was only a block or so away from where I was. I pulled in front of the small building and walked in. The office had a slight odd odor of dirty clothes. There was one patient sitting in the small waiting room.  I looked at the older man in his well worn clothes and immediately thought he might be homeless. I smiled at him and he smiled back with an almost toothless grin. Something tugged at my heart.

The receptionist was talking on the phone, but she smiled to acknowledge me. As I stood waiting, I heard her side of the conversation. I heard her verify with the person on the other end that they had health insurance but had a very high deductible. Yes, the clinic could help. I looked around at the small, simple, but clean office. Something tugged at my heart again.

A pleasant woman came through a door behind the front desk and asked if I needed help. I explained who I was and about the free programs for people with PD in the area as I handed her the fliers. She thanked me, said she would put some out in the waiting room and give some to the doctors to hand out. I thanked her and walked out to my car.

As I got back in the car, I looked again at the small building. It was a simple white building, nothing like the previous medical facility that I just came from with its large glass windows, spacious offices, and beautiful art on the walls.  I felt that same tug at my heart. This time tears came to my eyes. As I drove away, it hit me. “If not for the grace of God”.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs are or aren’t, we are one tragedy or bad decision away from needing services such as those provided by His Hands. I could be the homeless person in the waiting room if I had become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or had a mental illness that controlled my decisions. I could be there after being diagnosed with a disease or a became the victim of an accident that left me with medical bills that bankrupted me. I could be there if my child had been born with a condition that required expensive medical treatments.

We don’t like to think about the “what ifs”, but perhaps sometimes we should. It might give us a little more compassion towards those who are struggling. Maybe we wouldn’t see the man or woman on the street corner as a “bum”, but as someone who fell on hard times due to a drug or alcohol problem, or a mental illness. Maybe we wouldn’t stereotype the single mom who relies on Medicaid and Food Stamps to care for her family. Maybe we could empathize with the immigrant family who are just trying to find a better life for their children than what they fled. Maybe we could imagine what it would be like to be a veteran coming home to a different world that he or she is having trouble adjusting to.

Maybe, just maybe, we could all feel that tug in our hearts. That tug is called compassion. We all need to feel it.

Are Body Positivity and Fitness Compatible? — BEAUTY REDEFINED

If you want to improve your body image, but you have trouble prioritizing regular exercise … join the club! Lexie and I (BR co-directors) decided this week to renew our dedication to fitness. Not the “getting a bikini body” or “get your body back” kind of fitness, but the improving strength and capability and “using our bodies as…

via Are Body Positivity and Fitness Compatible? — BEAUTY REDEFINED

We Can’t Unsee Your Ugliness Dani Mathers…Here’s Why


Although I’ve been ranting about this woman, Dani Mathers, and her actions, which hopefully will result in charges, on my personal Facebook page, I have to share my thoughts here as well.

This is NEVER ok. I don’t care if she claims she meant to just send it to a friend. Mean girls like Dani don’t understand how difficult it is for some people to have the courage to exercise in public, especially at a gym filled with women like Dani. This woman may be going through health issues such as cancer and exercise has been prescribed to her. She may be an exhausted working mom taking an hour to re-energize herself before she heads home after a full day of work. She may be struggling with depression and anxiety. She could be an unappreciated caregiver of a spouse or parent with Alzheimers. I could think of a endless list of reasons why she’s there. The bottom line is SHE’S THERE TAKING CARE OF HERSELF. She doesn’t deserve, nor does anyone else, this bullying. 

Women like Dani are why I hated junior high gym class, really junior high in general!  Women like this are also why I dedicated my Fitness career to helping those NOT like Dani. This article made me think about a woman that I consoled years ago when I worked at the YMCA. She was in her late 40s, overweight, and struggling with severe depression along with other chronic conditions. She had contacted me about personal training. 

As I was talking to her in my office, she kept looking nervously around the fitness room behind us. I asked her if she was OK and she began to cry. She told me how afraid she was to exercise in front of these people who were so fit. I told her that because it was 3:30 on a weekday afternoon, they gym was occupied with mostly high school kids. She commented how fit they were, which I replied, “They’re 16/17 years old girls. They don’t have full time jobs yet, they haven’t been pregnant and given birth to a child, they haven’t gone through menopause, or struggled with health issues. Please don’t compare yourself to them or any other woman in the gym. You’re here for you.” She smiled and we went on to discuss days and times for her to come where she wouldn’t initially feel intimidated. She left my office with a hug and a smile.

I think about her often, especially when I meet with other women who may have the same feelings she had that day. I think about her when I see rude, obnoxious behavior in a gym. I think about her and all of the women and men like her when I read a story like this. This model, Dani doesn’t have compassion for others.  She and women like her either can’t empathize, or they cover their own insecurities by making fun of others. They’re the typical bully, the mean girls, the ones I still don’t have time for even today. Unfortunately, they’re everywhere. They’re at your upscale gym or at the local rec center. They’re at your kids soccer game or dance class or at the PTA meeting. 

Don’t let these mean girls and bullies win. Be body proud, take care of yourself, go for a jog, a bike ride, or take a yoga class. These people will smother in their own ugliness. Let your beauty, the real beauty, shine through.